This is part four of my How to Succeed Online series and I’m sure that you’ve already read about making a website plan, leaving your crayons at home, and how to figure out your website content and structure!  And now you’re on to the tough part; finding and writing content for your website!  Since there are many different types of website and purposes for each, I’m going to cover how to find and write content for three types of websites including personal sites, service oriented business websites and product based or e-commerce website content.  I’ll also give you some considerations for website content writing in general and maybe a couple of no-noes!

If you don’t have time to read the full article, then skip to the area that interests you the most:

Website Content Writing – General Tips

Content Writing Image

  • Know your target audience – Are you writing for high school students, soccer moms, lawyers or scientists?  Use a vocabulary that is appropriate for your readers.
  • Use a common voice – Determine whether your message should be in the first person (I, we, etc.) or third person (Bob’s Tax Service, Sally’s Taxidermy, etc.).  Use the same voice throughout your website with the exception of blog postings or other personal pieces which can switch to first person.
  • Write for people, not search engines – A long time ago, in the 90’s days of Alta Vista and Dog Pile, websites and web pages were given relevance and ranking based on the “keyword saturation” of their content.  For example, if your page was about “coffee cups”, the more you said “coffee cups” in your content, the better you would rank.  There was even a 9-1 ratio as a “magic number”.  This is no longer the case and in fact, you can (and probably will) be penalized by search engines for trying too hard. Search engines like unique, topic specific, human targeted content. Try to trick them and the pie will be on your proverbial face!
  • Have someone proofread for you – For whatever reason, the brain plays tricks on us.  Even if we think our content is perfect, chances are that it’s not.  Once you’ve written all of your website content have someone, besides you, proofread and edit for you.  Hint: This doesn’t mean Microsoft Word…it’s usually wrong too!
  • Make sure you have the right amount of content – If you’re describing your company’s history, one paragraph is probably too short.  If you’re writing a short product description for an e-commerce site, 4,000 words is probably too long to get to the point.  Keep in mind the average attention span of your target audience and be as concise (or detailed) as you need to be for the topic.
  • Don’t steal (or imitate)! – In case your parents didn’t tell you, stealing is bad.  And in case your English teacher didn’t tell you, using someone else’s words or ideas is plagiarism…which is also stealing.  Google and other search engines hate stealing or even “re-purposing” content and they will punch you right in your face for it.  Want to get banned from search engines, this is a good way to do it!  Even if a product manufacturer gives you permission to use their content and product descriptions, there is a good chance that 954 other people are using it too.  Be unique and you’ll get much more lovin’ from “The Google” (and the other search engines that don’t matter as much).

Finding & Writing Content for a Personal Website or Blog

Content Writing ImageThis is a pretty easy one, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.  If you’re running a personal website or blog just make sure that you:

  • Follow the general writing tips above and organize your content like I said in Succeed Online – Web Content and Structure
  • Set a schedule for yourself! The biggest mistake I see in the success of personal websites is being too stagnant.  A website is a living, breathing animal and has to be fed and watered regularly.  We all get super busy but a website is a commitment.  Wake up a little earlier than your spouse or kids and write when the house is quiet, write on your lunch break, whatever it takes.  Search engines and people like to see new stuff every time they come to your website.
  • Plan your topics in advance – We all run into writer’s block.  Whenever you think of a new topic to write about write it down on a list somewhere.  Maybe even write a paragraph or two about it so that you can remember what you were thinking.  Then, next Tuesday, when you can’t think of anything to write you can go back to your handy list and already have a topic.
  • Get your facts right – The goal of any website is to become an expert or voice on your topic.  If you’re writing about other people, things or technical stuff do a couple minutes (or hours depending on your topic) of research and make sure you’ve got your facts straight.  People will call you out if you’re wrong.  Be an expert, keep and grow your readers and hopefully increase your revenue too!

That’s about all you need to know!  Good luck!

Finding & Writing Web Content for a Service Based Business

Content Writing ImageYou would think writing content for your service based business would be easy!  How hard could it be to write about yourself?  In my experience, if you’re writing content for a service based website you are typically one of two people;  either you’re the business owner/manager with very little time or you’re an employee of the business that got the task of writing content for the new website dropped into your lap.  In either instance, finding and writing content for your website can be a daunting task.  Here are some pointers to make it a little less painful:

  • Schedule interviews – If you’re having difficulty describing your services, the company’s history or other information for your website, schedule interviews with other people in your company that may be able to fill in the blanks.  The company history can probably be answered by the owner of the company.  Services can be described by people in your company that perform those services.  Schedule a 30 minute interview with each of them and send them some questions that you’ll be asking about the topic a few days in advance.
  • Make it a team effort – Similar to the suggestion above, assign different pages of the website to different people in the office that can write the content for you.  Give them guidelines and deadlines such as “Bob, I need 300 words on our company’s history by next Tuesday” or “Sue, I need you to explain Debt Collection to me in customer friendly way by the end of the week”.  Once you’ve gathered everyone’s input, rewrite it so that it has a common voice/message.
  • Look at examples – Visit some of your competitors’ websites or the websites of companies that perform the same services in a different part of the country. Do not copy or rewrite their content, but get an idea of what other people are saying.  Also, you can do a search in Google for the service you are trying to describe and look at the top 5-10 results.  What are they saying that’s making them show up as an “expert” on the service?  How can you be similar or better?
  • Don’t get too “industry” – It’s great that your company calls it a “debt consolidation and remuneration”, but what are your customers going to call it?  If your customers are going to call the service “debt assistance” or “debt help”, then you need to use varying names and K.I.S.S. You may have to convince your boss some on this one.  Remember the tip from above to write for your audience.
  • Don’t be too ambitious – As I mentioned before, start smaller and grow regularly!  If you have twenty-four computer networking services that you can perform, maybe you don’t need a page on each of them to start with?  That’s twenty-four pages of content you’ll need to write!  Maybe break them into logical groups and summarize them into four or five pages to make things easier.  Then when you have time, make a page for each and turn your original page into a category page. ;)

Out of all the websites you could be writing for, a service based business can definitely be the hardest business to write for.  I hope that these tips will help you some and good luck!

Finding & Writing Web Content for a Product Based Business

Content Writing ImageFinding and writing content for a product based website or e-commerce store is the easiest of all!  The amount of information available for any of your products is huge and I’m willing to bet that you haven’t considered some of the alternative sources of website content for your products or are doing it completely wrong right now.  Here are some tips for finding and gathering web content for your product based website:

  • Don’t use their content! – This is the big mistake that most of you are probably making!  If you sell products made by another company, chances are that other companies are selling that manufacturer’s products online too.  Why does this matter to you?  Because chances are that all of you are using the same product descriptions and wording for your products and categories.  Remember the point above about not “stealing” or “imitating”?  This is exactly what it looks like you’re doing. If you manufacture your own products, but other people are selling them for you online, you’re going to have the same issue because they will most likely be using your product descriptions!  Hint: Take a sentence from one of your product descriptions, copy it, paste it in the search box on Google and put quotes on both sides of the sentence.  Click search.  How many other people are using the same content?
  • Other sources for product content, part 1 – Look at the product packaging and other marketing/sales material and utilize the wording from there or even rework it some.  You can also look at the user manuals if the product has one.  You’ll find that the wording and product descriptions should be somewhat different than the “generic” description that the product manufacturer released.
  • Other sources of product content, part 2 – Every time you talk to one of your colleagues, sales people, spouse, friends, whomever about one of your products or product lines…record it!  Take that digital recording of your discussion and send it off to a transcribing service.  For a very small investment, you’ll receive several hundred words about your product.
  • Other sources of product content, part 3 – Content doesn’t mean just the words.  Have someone use your product and take pictures while they use it.  Have them shoot a video of them using the product and end with them giving a description of how easy it was to use, how beneficial it was, how nice it is, etc.  Post these on the website with your products.
  • Other sources of product content, part 4 – Customer reviews of your product will provide a lot of valuable feedback and content for your products.  Allow your website users to submit feedback or testimonials about how great the “x-14 super widget” is and post those to your site.

The list of alternative sources of content for your product based website could go on and on.  Use some of the suggestions that I’ve provided or come up with some creative ideas of your own.  Keep in mind the general tips from above and avoid the big no-no that I pointed out in the first bullet and you’ll do great!

I hope that this article on finding and writing content for your website helps you succeed online!  If you have any questions about something, please fill out a contact form or comment on this article below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

My next How to Succeed Online articles will cover keyword selection, competitive analysis and internal site SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  Thanks for reading!

2 Responses to How to Succeed Online – Finding & Writing Content

  1. what are the concern with address information. for example i would like to create a website that compares stores. Do i need the stores permission to publish its physical address? or is this public information

    where do the concerns lie if i allow visitors to write comments about stores…which can be used to rank store experiences.

    anythoughts…

    Navdeep | March 1, 2010at 11:09 am

  2. Hi Navdeep,

    Business addresses and contact information are public information and thus you have the right to publish them anywhere you want to.

    You don’t need a businesses permission to publish their contact data or to allow your site’s users to make comments or give reviews of the business. There are TONS of websites that do this for businesses now that you could view as examples, such as yelp.com.

    Hope this helps!

    Dean | March 1, 2010at 11:55 am

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